Sunday, 21 October 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A tribute to Alf Simpson

Alf Simpson, well-known Whitianga local and World War II veteran, passed away on Wednesday 15 August this year, exactly one month before his 90th birthday. He was farewelled by many family and friends on Monday 20 August.

Alf attended this year’s ANZAC Day dawn service in Soldier’s Memorial Park in Whitianga, as he did every year, but didn’t march in the dawn parade. It was the first and only time he didn’t participate in the dawn parade.

Alf was born in the old Mercury Bay Hospital. He was one of eight children and grew up on a farm outside Kuaotunu. He was a member of the famous Simpson rugby team that was rumoured to be a better team than the All Blacks of the day.

Alf joined the New Zealand Navy as a Seaman Boy in 1944, when he was 16 years old. Several years ago he wrote a book about his experiences during the two-year period he served as a young sailor. Among the highlights were him witnessing Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II and representing HMNZS Gambia, the ship on which he served, in a victory parade in London on 8 June 1946.

After the war, Alf became involved in the building of state houses in the South Waikato. In the early 1950s he returned to Mercury Bay and started his own earthworks and cartage business. He was involved in the building of several of the roads in and around Whitianga.

Alf has always had a love for motorcycles and was over the years involved in several minor accidents. In his mid-20s, he was involved in a bulldozer accident that could have had disastrous consequences. He was thrown off one of his bulldozers and fortunately landed in a small ditch. The bulldozer rolled over him and ended up right above him, with a track each side. When Alf opened his eyes, he was facing the diff. He suffered a broken pelvis and few other broken bones. It was before the days of the Kopu-Hikuai Road and the ride to Thames Hospital over unsealed roads was one of Alf’s less pleasant memories.

In 1980, Alf and his wife, Dorette, and two daughters, Vicki and Sherri, moved to Taupo where Alf owned and operated another earthworks business and built spec houses.

Alf and his family moved back to Mercury Bay in 1999 when he embarked on the Pacific Estate subdivision in Whitianga. The last sections in the development were sold last year.

Dorette passed away in 2014 after a battle with Parkinson’s. Alf’s deep love for her was evident in the way he cared for her during her illness.

Alf was always active. He enjoyed long distance running, swimming, cycling, tennis, fishing and boating. He played golf until well into his 60s. At 80 years old, he bought his last motorcycle, a 250cc Hyosung Aquila.

Alf lived at the very end of Centennial Drive in Whitianga and in later years he and Katie, his beloved poodle, were a familiar site walking up and down Centennial Hill.

Alf was always interested museums, aquariums and places of historical interest, but it was only in the last 10 years of his life that he started to take some time out to travel to new destinations. Five years ago, he visited the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, the ship on which Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.

In 2017, Alf embarked on his last big adventure, a cruise around the world, but unfortunately he became unwell a third of the way through and spent two and a half weeks in a hospital in Venice, before he was flown back to New Zealand.

Work is underway to have a poppy symbol permanently affixed to the “Alf Simpson Drive” street name sign in Pacific Estate.  That will be a fitting tribute to a man who not only served his country in a time of war, but also left a lasting legacy in the community he was very much a part of.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.